rapha cut allI had never ridden in anything made by Rapha, a clothing company that elicits a wide range of emotion in people.  Just a ‘Tour

racing cutDe Clicks’ of the Rapha website is quite a journey.  The images are more art than product, and there is a sense of a story being told with a nod to the classic days of cycling; steel bikes, small italian men, and wool jerseys all mixed in with urban cafe’-art studio metro sexual-ness.  That in itself is kind of cool, although many see it as pretentious, but what really polarizes folks are the costs of Rapha clothing.  It is expensive.  And while value is often in the ego and wallet of the beholder, it can be and SHOULD be tied to function and quality.

And that is where I come in.  As fun as the Rapha website was to poke around in, I am not willing to pay a premium price for all that artsy-fartsyness.  What I might be talked into though, is paying a premium price for a superbly made piece of cycling wear that gives me high function, understated styling, and long lasting value.

So what we have here is a bit of a sampler pack of Rapha wear.  A long sleeve wool jersey, a short sleeve wool base shirt, and a set of lycra bibs, and just for fun, a set of Rapha’s nod to baggies, the Touring Short.  The Long Sleeve Wool Jersey has dropped off the Rapha website, no doubt to make way for Spring/Summer, so I have no active link for that.  Inquire with Rapha if you have any questions on purchasing, etc.

As I was unpacking all this in the palatial bedroom of my estate, my wife was looking on and seeing what I was un-bagging.  Looking at the items, most notably the Touring Shorts, she mentioned the quality of the items, saying that they were more like tailored clothing, beautifully made and detailed beyond what you would expect from cycling gear.  She was impressed and she knows what is what when it comes to clothing.

So, one at a time then:

The Rapha Long Sleeve Jersey $200.00:  Size LG


In my early days of mountain biking, I had a wool jersey that was, if I recall correctly, made by Boure’.  It was simple, really.  Three rear pockets.  Long sleeves. Red color.  I loved that jersey.  It had a very wide range of temps it worked in, never smelled like a gym bag full of old socks, and looked simple and classy.  No billboard graphics and trendy colors.  But over time, it shrunk to where a child could wear it and it was a bit itchy.  I now have a replacement for that old jersey and for that, I am pretty stoked.  The Rapha Long Sleeve Jersey is simple as well, but has some quietly nice features.

  • Full zip for one.  Excellent.
  • Long sleeves, cut at an angle so they do not bunch up at the wrist when you are at the controls of the bike.
  • The fabric feel of the Merino wool is just very, very nice.  Truly.
  • Snug neck closure that comes up decently high for keeping drafts away with a zipper garage.
  • Rear pockets that include a small pump storage section.  Well done.
  • A slim fit overall.

The first ride was a 7 hour, 50 mile MTB loop with 9000′ of climbing in high winds and varying temps from the 40s to the 70s.  I wore the Rapha wool base shirt under the L/S wool jersey, Ibex El Fito 3/4 wool knickers, and the Showers Pass jacket we reviewed this year.  It was, quite frankly, the perfect jersey for the day.  Since then I have worn it on road rides in temps that started cool and then turned warm, quite frankly warm enough as to make a wool long sleeve jersey ‘over the top’.

DSC06628What do I think?

The good:

  • Classy, understated styling.  And I like purple.
  • Slim fit keeps it close to you.
  • The fabric never felt one single bit itchy on bare arms, even when I was building up some steam.
  • While not wind proof in any meaningful way, nor do they claim it to be, it walks a pretty good line between cutting some wind out and breathing well.  What I noticed was, at speed, the wind is moving though the jersey and I was feeling cool, etc.  But when speeds dropped, I was surprised how fast I felt warm again, especially when wearing the Rapha Base shirt.
  • No stink even after several wearings.
  • Merino wool brings with it a wide range of acceptable temps where it is effective, and while this is not a heavy winter item or a summer jersey, it fills in the rest of the season very well.

The not so good:

  • High step-in cost.
  • There were times I felt the neck closure was a bit much and too tight, especially under a jacket where it was a bit restrictive at the front of the throat.
  • If you wear it with baggy shorts, the jersey is not cut terribly long in the back/sides and will creep above the belt line.  Worn with lycra bibs (or bibs period) this is not an issue.  Keeping in mind this is a roadie based article of clothing, this is what I might expect, but if it was a skosh longer it would not hurt.

It is too soon to know about longevity, but this is a really, really nice jersey and crosses over from road to gravel to endurance XC to bikepacking, to touring to….well, maybe not Enduro racing, baggy shorts, etc.

Note: the detail pics below show it as more bright purple, but the model shots are closer in true color. It is more like a deep plum/berry color to my eyes.  Also shown are the rear pocket details, including the pump ‘pocket’ and the inner waist cinch.

Rapha L/S JerseyIMG_0185Rapha L/S Jersey

Rapha L/S JerseyRapha L/S JerseyRapha L/S Jersey

Rapha L/S JerseyRapha L/S JerseyRapha L/S Jersey

Final thought: If I was heading out on the Tour Divide or the Colorado Trail and I had to pick 6 items of clothing to ride in, live in, and survive in all that time, the Rapha L/S wool jersey would be packed in my bag…unless I was wearing it.


Merino Base Layer Short Sleeve:  $85.00  Size LG

Rapha Merino Base shirtI wore this on that long, windy climbing day and several times after.  None of those wearings changed my love for this shirt based on the first time I pulled it on.  Oh my.  Snuggly.  Soft.  Luxurious almost.  In fact, the beige color I have is actually something nice enough to wear under a dress shirt for cold days.  I even considered not using it for bike rides as it is just so darn nice.  But I did ride in it and it is likely one of the best base shirts I have worn.

The Good:

  • Fabulous feel to the fabric.
  • More of a snug-Tshirt fit so it is not skin tight.
  • Comes in lots of colors.
  • No body odor for at least a millennia.
  • Never felt chilled in it, even when it was damp.

The Not So Good:

  • More of a snug T-shirt so it is NOT skin tight.  Depends how you want that, for good or for bad.
  • Might be a bit much for a summer day where a meshy shirt base would be the deal (Rapha has those too)

Rapha Merino Base shirttRapha Merino Base shirt

Final word:  Luxuriously cozy and effective base shirt, but you might feel guilty getting it dirty.


Classic Bib Shorts $235.00:

Rapha classic bib shortsThese use the highest rated chamois Rapha offers and what they call out as a “soft, matt-black Lycra with great stretch”.  They have a mesh top and back with a clever little keys pocket at the back which a regular iPhone will fit into (not a secure pocket, perhaps, but handy).  I typically wear a medium in a bib short, but these were sized LG.  Steeping into them is another lesson in great fabric/garment ‘feel’.  Perhaps due to the LG size, they were easy to get pulled up and the straps over the shoulder were easy to manage.  They are very soft feeling, almost fleecy and the leg grippers at the hems are not binding at all.  Yet, even in the LG size, I do not see or feel any bunching of extra fabric that does not know where to go.

I wore these mostly on road rides to get some miles in them during the review period.  The first day was 50 miles and in what has been a surprisingly warm February, hitting 85° on some of the long climbs inland.  Just for kicks I did not wear any chamois cream to see how they did in that regard.   What I noticed was a short that just does its job and never made me hate it.  I also noticed that as the day got long and the nether regions got a bit smarmy, I was shuffling my butt around less with these to find that ‘comfy spot’ on the saddle.  The next outing was an 80 mile road ride where I did wear Chamois Butter, as I typically would. There were absolutely fidget free and felt just as good at mile 80 as they did at mile 1.  These just might be, and likely are, the best shorts I have worn.

The Good:

  • Very, very nice feeling item to wear.  Soft to the touch and comfy.
  • Shoulder straps have proper give to them and do not bind or pull.
  • The chamois seems as good as anything I have been on (like a Specialized Pro Bib), and just might be a new ‘best’.
  • The white piping on the uppers look like a bib-tuxedo.  Top hat and tails would be fine with these.
  • Love that little back pocket.  I would not keep anything valuable in there for a long ride perhaps, but it sure was handy when I was getting loaded/unloaded for phone, keys, etc., and had no jersey on at the time.

The Not So Good:

  • Well, a bit of sticker shock at $250-ish bucks all said and done.  For that, they better be pretty darn good.  Are they $100.00 better than something like a Specialized RBX Pro bib?  Maybe…maybe not.  If we know that they last and keep the fit and feel over hard use, then that cost is less of an obstacle.  In many ways, great cycling gear is an investment, not just an expense.

Rapha classic bib shortsRapha classic bib shorts

Final word:  Quite possibly the best wearing bib shorts I have ever used.


Touring Shorts $125.00:  Size Medium

Rapha Touring ShortsThese are kind of cool, but not my kind of cool.  I would not wear them for MTB riding, not that they could not be used that way I suppose, but they are just a bit dressy looking for that IMO.  But two things happened when I unpacked them and began to try them on. First, they were too small for me.  The Mediums were too snug for my 32″ waist.  The second thing was, my wife saw them and went “Ooooohhh!…those are nice!”  They did, in matter of fact, fit her, although they are bit big.  See you later, Rapha Touring Shorts.  Now she loves to ride and is a very competent cyclist in her own right, mostly on the road side of things.  And she loves to ride in what she calls ‘Capris’, kind of a close fitting, long cut short.  She also blends rides with visits to clients as she has a business that centers around pets and training and walking them, etc.  In that use, the Rapha Touring Shorts are dead on perfect, transitioning from bike to city to whatever. They are cycling cut, but still good to walk in and do not look odd when you are off the bike. There is no chamois, so liners or such would be required if you so desire.

The quality of the seams and stitching is very high. They are pretty classy really, and still functional if they meet your needs.

The good:

  • Above average construction and attention to detail.
  • Blends well with street clothes so apres cycling use is not odd looking.

The not so good:

  • Not a typical MTB baggy.  Would look silly with knee pads, etc.

Rapha Touring ShortsRapha Touring Shorts

Rapha Touring ShortsRapha Touring Shorts

Final Word:  Well made, classy looking, yet functional for mixed days of riding and about-town use.


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Note: Rapha sent over these items for test/review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being paid nor bribed for this review and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.